YouTube series highlights Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, big and small | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

YouTube series highlights Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, big and small

click to enlarge Dean Bog exploring the Hill District. - CREDIT: DEAN BOG
Credit: Dean Bog
Dean Bog exploring the Hill District.
There are about 90 neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, give or take depending on what you count as a neighborhood. Everyone knows the neighborhood in which they live, and a handful of others. But nobody knows all of them well, even YouTuber Dean Bog, who's been highlighting all the corners of Pittsburgh in his Neighborhoods of Pittsburgh series.

He started the project in September, and his first video, about Bloomfield, has amassed around 17,000 views. Bog says that he'll be making five videos over five weeks on five different neighborhoods.

Last week, Bog (shortened version of Bogdanovic) uploaded his 13th video covering Mount Oliver, and launched a Patreon. Prior to when he started the neighborhood series, Bog's YouTube channel was filled with videos about Pittsburgh, but none as explicitly so, or as extensive as the Neighborhoods series. He first started posting videos to the r/Pittsburgh subreddit, which lists around 70,000 members, and Bog says the community was supportive and provided constructive feedback.

The videos consist interviews, B-roll footage, a count of parks in the neighborhood, a tally of trash in the neighborhood (which doubles as a clean-up to give back to area). In some shots, Bog is standing in front of a church or in a park or on a tram, explaining something about the neighborhood to the camera. Sometimes he appears twice on camera, interviewing himself playing a character. Otherwise, the videos feature residents, shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and people hanging out on their stoops.
While the project started as something of a full-time hobby (Bog only started making money when he launched the Patreon five months in), the videos don’t look like a scrappy school project. They look professional enough to have been shot by a whole film crew, but it’s just Bog. He uses a drone camera to capture cityscapes and sometimes affixes a camera to a helmet or bike handlebars. The videos often make you literally see the city in ways you never have before.

And while Bog says he does some research, he mostly relies on the interviews with strangers to guide the direction of his videos. "I'm trying to kind of echo what they tell me in the rest of the video, which is good because you kinda get a firsthand account of what the neighborhood's going through, especially if you get somebody that's lived there for a while," says Bog. "But it's bad I suppose because people misremember things and it's probably not the most accurate, at times."

So far, Bog has covered both bigger neighborhoods like Bloomfield and South Side, as well as smaller areas like Manchester and Four Mile Run (a small neighborhood in Greenfield). He says that switching between the two kinds is helpful, as the bigger neighborhoods can be overwhelming with how much there is to cover, and the smaller ones can require more digging.

According to Bog, the feedback on the videos has been overwhelmingly positive, which would be hard to believe if it didn't seem to be true. Pittsburghers are proprietary over their neighborhoods and love to point out what an outsider might get wrong about their home. But the comment section on Bog's videos is indeed mostly positive, as are the replies to his posts of the videos on Reddit, an impressive feat considering online comment sections are prone to vitriol.

In one video, about the Hill District, Bog talks to one resident, who is Black, as he explains how the neighborhood struggles because people from other neighborhoods see it as unsafe. The clip is followed by Bog's interaction with a white driver in his car, who warns Bog to guard his camera gear closely.

But the purpose of the videos is to let the neighborhoods and its residents speak for themselves, and Bog doesn't let stereotypes or racism towards the Hill obstruct what its residents like about it. He shows the neighborhood's many churches and parks and ends the video by telling viewers when and where they can meet him for dinner, at a Hill District Jamaican restaurant. In the comment section, several current and former Hill residents commend the video's positivity.

Not everyone would be able to walk up to strangers and get them to talk in detail about their homes, but Bog has an ability to draw conversations out of people.

"I certainly try to be very open and conversational and honest with them," he says. "I think that can sometimes elicit the same response."

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